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Records of Present Tense Magazine

Identifier: RG 1374

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains three primary groups of materials: the correspondence of Murray Polner, the editor of Present Tense, a file of photographs that accompanied articles published in the magazine, and subject files, which contain proofs of articles and correspondence with authors, arranged by subject. Frequently the subject will be the author of the article; however this is not always the case. In cases where an author contributed more than one article, each article is typically separated into its own folder, with the subject of each article noted in the second part of the title. The subject files contain several indexes to articles published in Present Tense which may be useful to the researcher.


  • Creation: undated, 1932-1991

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Historical Note

Present Tense magazine was founded in 1973 to provide a global perspective on Jewish issues to the American Jewish community. Published by the American Jewish Committee’s department of Foreign Affairs, Present Tense represented an alternative to Commentary, the other magazine published by the AJC, which had taken a hard turn to the right under the editorship of the neoconservative pundit Norman Podhoretz. According to the magazine’s Statement of Purpose, Present Tense's mission was to publish journalism “expressing a wide diversity of opinion on the situation of Jews in countries around the world, the special problems of Israel, the relationships among Jewish communities, and those issues and events in the United States and abroad which affect Jewish life and institutions.”

The magazine was edited by Murray Polner, and regular columnists included the novelist and memoirist Anne Roife, and the scholar Arthur Hertzberg. The magazine remained in print until 1990, when a budget crisis forced the American Jewish Committee to restructure. At this time, it was decided that both magazines (Present Tense and Commentary) had to become self-supporting. Commentary was able to find independent funding and stayed in print, while Present Tense did not.


Nathan Abrams, Norman Podhoretz and Commentary: The Rise and Fall of the Neocons. (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2010), 124-126.

Roger Cohen, "Liberal Jewish Bimonthly Magazine to Close," New York Times, February 8, 1990.

Marianne Rachel Sanua, Let Us Prove Strong: The American Jewish Committee, 1945-2006 (Lebanon, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2007), 329-331.


8.75 Linear Feet (7 bankers' boxes)


Present Tense magazine, which was published by the American Jewish Committee from 1973-1990, published articles on Jewish affairs with an international bent. These papers contain the letters of the magazine’s editor, Murray Polner, photographs collected for publication, and subject files which consist primarily of article proofs and correspondence with contributing authors.

Acquisition Information

These records were received from the American Jewish Committee in 1994.

Guide to the Records of Present Tense Magazine undated, 1932-1991 RG 1374
Processed by Sarah Ponichtera in 2013, made possible by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support "Illuminating Hidden Collections at the Center for Jewish History."
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States